Ventilator-Assisted Living©

Spring 1999, Vol. 13, No. 1


Living with Invasive Ventilation

Dan Garrison, Ballwin, Missouri

Whenever I read about noninvasive ventilation, I think, "Gee, I live with invasive ventilation, and it is no big deal for me." I contracted polio in 1952 at the age of 17. I spent six weeks in an iron lung, followed by a month using a rocking bed.

In 1978 I experienced severe respiratory difficulties. A number of unsuccessful attempts to assist my breathing, including a chest cuirass, were made. I was admitted to the hospital in a very serious condition. It was determined that I was retaining CO2, and my pulmonologist, after much con-sultation, placed a tube down my throat and connected it to a ventilator. After 36 hours, the crisis passed. A week later a tracheotomy was performed.

The first trach tube I had was a Shiley plastic fenestrated tube. I used a Mini-Bird ventilator, powered by a large orange compressor. It was quite loud, and I have often wondered why neither my wife nor I went deaf from its noise. Approximately four months after the tracheotomy, my doctor changed the Shiley tube to a Jackson stainless steel tube. By placing a plastic plug in the inner cannula, I could speak with no difficulty.

After six years, I made the transition to an LP4 volume ventilator. Transporting this and the necessary tubing was much easier, especially with a large metal case that was later provided. Since then, I upgraded to the LP6 and then the LP10.

A few years ago, I switched to a Boston trach tube made of plastic which is quite easy to place in the stoma. The exterior plastic lies smoothly against my neck, over the stoma, with no protrusion. There is an inner cannula that I insert when I need to attach the ventilator.

When I return home in the evening after working as a computer-programmer-analyst, I often lie down to rest and nap and attach the ventilator. I also use the ventilator during the night which aids in preventing underventilation and respiratory insufficiency. I have learned over the years that I need to take precautions whenever I have any kind of respiratory infection.

I have no difficulties living with invasive ventilation. When I am tired or need to sleep, I just hook up and let "mom" ventilator take over the work of breathing for me. I find it easy to watch television from my bed while using the ventilator. There has been some difficulty with my medical insurance company because it does not provide for preventive maintenance of the equipment.

Through the Bruce catalog, I purchased an elastic, washable, adjustable strap to hold the trach tube in place. The catalog also offers soft, cloth covers (they look like a dickey) to wear around my neck to cover the stoma and trach. I can also wear a tie with no difficulty.

I believe the main reason that I live so easily with invasive ventilation is the time which was taken by medical practitioners in the beginning to talk with me about the tracheostomy and its care. Twenty years have passed since the original surgery, but through trial and error, I have adjusted to the trach. It may not be for everyone, but it is just a normal part of life for me.

Back to Contents of this issue of Ventilator-Assisted Living

Back to top